Story by Theodore Sturgeon
Teleplay by Rockne S. O'Bannon
Directed by Sheldon Larry
Original Airdate - January 24, 1986
Adam Arkin - Michael Wright
Karen Austin - June Wright
Adolph Caesar - Supervisor
Marianne Muellerleille - Woman #1 in Accident
Joanna Johnson - Woman #2 in Accident
Alan David Gelman - Heavyset Man

A husband and wife wake up, sure they've overslept because their bedside clock says 11:37am. They check a wristwatch, which says a little after 7am, so they assume the clock must be broken. They hear a noise in their house, however, and think a burglar has broken in. When they creep downstairs, they see men moving around - but these men are all blue! They have no face, just a blue expanse where their faces should be. The husband tries to stop them, but they just ignore him. The blue men aren't stealing from them; they're bringing in items that have been in the house for years, and rearranging things, using tools that are the same color blue as the men. The couple walk outdoors, and find the entire neighborhood a hive of activity, with blue men moving things into houses, building lawns, and generally constructing the entire scene. The couple are very confused.

They walk downtown, where the blue people are reconstructing a car accident, and placing other cars in the street. The couple walks into an alley, where they find themselves in the middle of a white void. A man in yellow follows them and asks what they're doing there. He takes them out of the void. They go to the husband's office, where the man in yellow explains that they've fallen behind the scenes of Time. They've become "stuck" in the minute 11:37, and can never leave. They are aghast, because they've got a life to get back to. The man in yellow explains the way Time works to them; like an unending boxcar, where each minute is a single boxcar.

He takes them back to their house, where the blue men are still building. The couple escape, desperate to get back to their own time, and hide out in the box office of a theatre downtown. They have a plan: if they wait till the minute 11:37am comes along, they might be able to stick in real time. The man in yellow and a few blue henchmen have been looking for them, but as the minute 11:37 is about to arrive, the couple come out of hiding so they don't miss their chance. The man in yellow sees them, but is powerless to do anything.

A rushing sound begins to accelerate in sound, and the man in yellow says that it's the sound of actual time approaching. He and his blue men have to leave, which they do, in a huff. As the couple are standing on the sidewalk, people suddenly appear around them, as the minute 11:37 arrives. They anxiously count off the seconds, and as 11:38 arrives, they are still in correct time. They happily hug each other, and then begin to walk home. They come across a blue wrench, sitting on a phone booth. They pick it up and smile at each other, and the husband says, "Oops!" They walk off, carrying a souvenir of their experience.



"A Matter of Minutes" is a witty and ingenious segment. It abounds with clever ideas and intelligent scenarios, which are the product of Rockne O'Bannon and any of the other writers on the show who worked on this episode and not the original author, because the finished script bears absolutely no resemblance to Theodore Sturgeon's short story, "Yesterday Was Monday" though it's credited as the inspiration. The writers borrowed the general idea and completely rewrote it for the better, thank goodness. Sturgeon's original story was a rather long and convoluted piece, about heaven and angels and how they influenced time. It's one of his more heavy-handed stories, and not any fun at all to read, in my opinion. In fact, I had a very hard time getting through it, which was a first for a Sturgeon story. He's usually completely out in some fantastically detailed realm, and this one just isn't anything like his normal stories.

The idea of having the time mechanics all in blue was sheer inspiration; it sets them apart from us regular folk and when they are all working together they look like a blue-clad moving company.  I sometimes wonder if the Blue Man Group didn't get their idea from this episode. The description of "how time works" is also clever, and the 1985 graphics for the demonstration and for the "behind-the-scenes of Time" shots are topnotch. When the couple hides in the theatre box office, we see a "Time Bandits" poster in the theatre window, another nice touch. If you do manage to catch this episode, keep your eyes open for other inside jokes such as this that play off the Time theme. There are several more.

Adam Arkin and Karen Austin are perfect as the husband and wife; they have an affinity that makes their relationship believable. Karen Austin was a competent actress with a definite presence, and I've always wondered why she sort of dropped out of sight right after this (she filmed "Summer Rental" in the same year, and in fact has been working all along, but not in anything visible). Adolph Caesar was an actor of immense stature, though he doesn't get to show much of it in this episode. He's still very commanding as the man in yellow and master of the time mechanics, and of Time itself.

Trivia: The woman arguing with the driver of the car that hit hers, near the end of the episode, is Marianne Muellerleile, the first Sara Connor killed by the Terminator in James Cameron's "The Terminator."